Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been one of those New York places that I'd always meant to visit but never got around to until recently. The site of the 1964 New York World's Fair, I knew the basic history of the place, and we drive pass the recognizable Unisphere and New York State Pavilion every weekend on the way out to the glass studio. But like the Staten Island ferry, which has been on my to-do list for years now, I never got around to seeing it for myself. Sunday, however, was an incredibly beautiful day. Wanting to be outside anyway, we decided that a park visit was exactly what we needed.

Behold, the Unisphere! According to the handy informational plaque at the site, it was presented to the 1964 World's Fair by the United States Steel Corporation. Made out of stainless steel, this baby stands 140 feet high and weighs 700,000 pounds. The Unisphere is quite impressive up close, but my favorite structure at the park is definitely the New York State Pavilion. And who build this crazy futuristic pavilion? Why, it was our illustrious Designer of the Month himself, Philip Johnson!

Here's what the place looks like today:

And here's what it looked like back in 1964:

New York State Pavilion. Courtesy of Tom Fletcher's New York Architecture website.

The New York State Pavilion featured three tall observation towers, accessible by "Sky Streak" capsule elevators, and a colorful translucent "Tent of Tomorrow," over the world's biggest suspension roof.

Even though the pavilion is now falling apart, you still get a sense of the grandeur of the place when you visit.

Sky Streak capsule elevators. Courtesy of Tom Fletcher's New York Architecture website.

The tops of the observation towers, which were the tallest structures at the Fair, would have had an amazing view of the entire park.

Inside the New York State Pavilion. From the 1965 World's Fair Publicity Pamphlet, "What's Free at the Fair". Courtesy of Tom Fletcher's New York Architecture website.

The main floor of the Pavilion featured a large map of New York that were surrounded by attractions, including the ride shown above. There was also a gallery with portraits of early New York colonists and Hudson River school paintings on display, as well as a power exhibit with a replica of the St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant, complete with spinning turbines.

Pretty cool, right? I know I don't usually do a Designer of the Month segment twice in one week, but I thought that this park visit, and the Pavilion's history, deserved a mention after our visit. More about Johnson on Friday!

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